Michael Phelps

Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps qualify for Pan Pacs 100m fly final

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Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps were the two fastest swimmers in the rainy 100m butterfly prelims at the Pan Pacific Championships, setting up a potential showdown Saturday.

Lochte won his heat in 51.55 seconds in Gold Coast, Australia. Phelps prevailed in a later heat in 51.57.

“It’s crazy with like the sideways rain,” Phelps, shivering and his neck wrapped in a towel, told reporters in Gold Coast. “It’s a little chilly out there, but we’re all under the same conditions.”

Phelps, the three-time reigning Olympic 100m fly champion, owns the fastest 100m fly time in the world this year of 51.17 seconds. Phelps swam that time in the prelims of the U.S. Championships two weeks ago, but he was out-touched by .01 in the final by Tom Shields.

Shields won his 100m fly heat at Pan Pacs in 52.00, failing to qualify for the top final because only two swimmers per nation can advance.

Phelps finished fourth in the 100m freestyle earlier in the meet. He and Lochte helped the U.S. to gold in the 4x200m free relay.

NBC and NBC Sports Live Extra will have Pan Pacs coverage Saturday from 3:30-4:30 p.m. ET and Sunday from 1-2:30.

Pan Pacs are not only the biggest meet for U.S. and Australian swimmers this year, but times from Pan Pacs and the U.S. Championships will also determine the U.S. team for the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

In other events, Katie Ledecky set the pace in the 400m free heats in 4:03.09, a Pan Pacs record. Ledecky already owns gold medals from the 200m free, 800m free and 4x200m free relay this week.

Missy Franklin qualified second into the final of the 200m backstroke, an event in which she holds the world record. Australian Belinda Hocking was .01 faster than her in the prelims.

Franklin is swimming through back problems after first suffering spasms Tuesday.

“It’s kind of at the point where it’s not going to get too much better when I’m racing three times a day,” Franklin told reporters in Gold Coast. “But we’ve got it under control. I’m convincing myself it’s great.”

Beijing Olympic champion Park Tae-hwan of South Korea led the men’s 400m free qualifiers, followed by American Connor Jaeger, the World bronze medalist.

Australian Olympic bronze medalist Alicia Coutts was the top qualifier into the women’s 100m butterfly finals. Americans Claire Donahue and Kendyl Stewart also made the top final.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins Aspen World Cup slalom

Mikaela Shiffrin
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With a slalom win today in Aspen, Colo., Mikaela Shiffrin broke some of the barriers she had been chasing.

En route to her fourth consecutive slalom World Cup title – which would tie the record for the most with Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider from 1992-95 – she became the first female skier to win four World Cup slalom races in a row since Austria’s Marlies Schild did it in the 2011-12 season.

In addition, Shiffrin became the first female skier from the U.S. to win a slalom World Cup race in Aspen. And she’s now tied with France’s Perrine Pelen for sixth overall with total slalom World Cup victories.

“I was pissed after I made that ridiculous mistake yesterday,” Shiffrin said to media, referencing yesterday’s giant slalom crash. Both her and Lindsey Vonn crashed and did not finish in Aspen’s giant slalom. “I tried to use that anger today.”

Shiffrin called the mistake a “brainfart” and Vonn dismissed it because “giant slalom isn’t [her] strongest event.”

Slovakia’s Veronika Velez Zuzulova was second behind Shiffrin, followed by Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter.

By finishing behind Shiffrin in Aspen, Zuzulova extends her slalom World Cup podium finish streak to four.

Hansdotter has the second-most second place World Cup slalom finishes at 13 total, including today’s race. Only Pernilla Wiberg, of Sweden, has more with a total of 14.

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Fencing great Valentina Vezzali fails to qualify for Rio 2016

Mario Monti, Valentina Vezzali
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TURIN, Italy (AP) – Six-time Olympic champion fencer Valentina Vezzali has failed to qualify for next year’s Rio de Janeiro Games.

The 41-year-old Vezzali was eliminated in the second round of the foil event at the Trofeo Inalpi meet Saturday, while Italian teammate Arianna Errigo reached the semifinals and gained the necessary points to qualify.

Vezzali won at least one gold at the last five Olympics in either individual or team foil. She has a total of nine Olympic medals and 25 at world championships.

Her second son was born in 2013, the year in which she also became a member of Italy’s parliament.

Vezzali told the Gazzetta dello Sport this week that “I had another son and it was really difficult to come back. … I don’t think I have anything else to prove.”

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